When astronauts travel beyond low-Earth orbit (LEO), they will be exposed to galactic cosmic rays and will also be at risk of exposure to bursts of proton radiation due to largely unpredictable solar particle events. (SPEs). While the health problems from an SPE can be immediate, exposure to heavy ions (galactic cosmic rays) may cause long-term health risks. For instance, the results of recent epidemiological studies on Earth-based radiation exposures suggest that the heart and vasculature may be more sensitive to radiation than previously thought and may be at risk for late degenerative effects.
The Center for Space Radiation Research (CSRR) is comprised of teams from four institutions that work closely together to assess both the acute and late risks of low-dose proton and heavy ion exposures, and identify safe countermeasures that may protect astronauts against radiation effects. The researchers will use animal models to conduct the studies.